The people's voice of reason

Alabama medical cannabis delayed again

In 2021 a bipartisan majority of legislators voted for Alabama to become the latest state with lawful medical cannabis. Over three years have now passed and not a single Alabamian has been able to purchase doctor recommended legal medical cannabis anywhere in the state – and there is no reason to believe that that will change any time soon. On Tuesday, Montgomery Circuit Court James Anderson gave an order to stay licenses being issued for business entities to sell marijuana.

Anderson issues another temporary restraining order at the request of both the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) and the plaintiffs suing the commission to give them more time to negotiate a path moving forward.

None of this is new. In June 2023 the commission awarded licenses to business entities that wanted to enter the medical cannabis field. Applicants who failed to score high enough on the independent evaluations from the University of South Alabama sued claiming the scoring was flawed and the AMCC violated the Alabama Open Meetings law. Those awards were vacated, and new awards were issued in August. Failed applicants went back to court. After court ordered mediation, the Commission agreed to vacate all of those awards and make new license awards in December – this time without considering the disputed University of South Alabama scoring. Applicants who still were deemed unworthy of winning a license again went back to court. Judge Anderson again placed restraining orders on the issuing of vertically integrated licenses and dispensary licenses.

On Tuesday Anderson commanded the plaintiffs and the AMCC to provide a jointly proposed order that to allow investigative hearings on awarded licenses to continue. The restraining order on the issuing of the licenses remains in place.

Alabama Always LLC. Attorney Will Somerville insists that he can't explain why his clients should have gotten a license if they are not allowed to argue why business entities that did get a license should not have been awarded a license.

The 2021 legislation, sponsored by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) limits the number of vertically integrated licenses to just five and the number of dispensary licenses to just four.

This prevents the Commission from being able to just award 10 or 20 licenses to all qualified groups, even if they wanted to.

Chey Garrigan is the Founder and President of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

"The judge cannot increase the number of licenses," Garrigan explained. "These guys can't get what they want – a license – from the court."

"It is going to take legislation," Garrigan said.

Legislation to increase the number of licenses was introduced in the 2024 Alabama Regular Legislative Session; but that ultimately failed.

H Marty Schelper is the Founder/President of the Alabama Cannabis Coalition.

"Free Markets" would solve this quagmire regarding "legal" medical Cannabis," Schelper said. "The Alabama Legislature had an opportunity in the 2024 Legislative Session to resolve this dilemma and chose not to do so."

Somerville blamed the Commission for the failure of the legislation.

"They (the AMCC) wanted immunity for the commissioners," Somerville told reporters. "They wanted to exempt the commissioners from depositions." "That was not going to happen."

There is medical marijuana being legally grown in Alabama, but it cannot be sold because the AMCC was able to issue cultivator licenses but without anyone being able to lawfully dispense it there is nowhere for the crop to go when it is harvested.

"All we can do is freeze it," cannabis farmer Antoine Mordican said.

Mordican said that there is no money from the AMCC or the Legislature to help the farmers continue operating while the legal saga continues.

The court has been asked to separate the lawsuit for the dispensaries with the lawsuit for the vertically integrated facilities. Judge Anderson said that he will consider that motion at a future date. Attorneys for failed dispensary license applicants objected to separating the two suits and moving ahead with the dispensary licenses.

This all means that while the trial lawyers on both sides rack up billable hours, medical marijuana remains unavailable to patients in the state of Alabama.

"The sick, suffering and dying citizens of Alabama continue to be sick, continue to suffer and continue to die," Schleper said. "SB46/2021 created a "legal" Cannabis cartel and the AL Legislature dictates who can and cannot participate in the medical Cannabis Industry in Alabama. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission carries out their edicts."

Garrigan said that legislation remains the only option.

"Only legislation can increase the number of licenses," Garrigan said.

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